Digging up History
I have never been inspired to write historical fiction, primarily, I think, because I am intimidated by the idea of trying to write about a time in which I never lived. I worry about getting it wrong and not doing justice to the people who lived then. But that doesn’t mean history doesn’t inspire my contemporary stories.
I like reading history because it gives me real world examples of how people act and I can use those actions to build characters and their motivations.
As I wrote in a previous post, I have read a lot about the Victorian and Edwardian periods in England. The relationships within Queen Victoria’s family could inspire dozens of plots. For example, Queen Victoria was crazy about her husband Prince Albert. They were both crazy about the oldest of their nine children, Vicky. They devoted a lot of time and energy to groom and educate her into being the ideal queen consort. Their second child, a boy nicknamed Bertie, was not nearly as well trained, even though he was in line for his mother’s throne. Victoria and Albert were very critical of Bertie. Their third child, Alice, was probably the most original thinker in the family but was overshadowed by Vicky. She and Bertie were close.
This family dynamic can easily translate into modern times. Mom is a celebrity CEO of a successful family business. Dad is her right-hand man. First daughter, whose personality matches Mom’s, is groomed to take over the family business. Son and second daughter feel left out and become each other’s best friend in the family.
My historical inspiration doesn’t have to trap me. I can change it. I can make second daughter deeply jealous of first daughter. I can make son a rebel. By the time I’m through, my story may look like nothing like the historical inspiration, but the history was need to get my imagination working.
If you are interested in reading about the Victorian and Edwardian periods, these books are ones I have read and enjoyed: Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney, Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold M. Brown, and Queen Victoria’s Family: A Century of Photographs by Charlotte Zeepvat.